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Civil remedies. Sample question - answers Questions? Textbook, p 362, qu 6 Legal Notes, p 135, qu 7. The jury system. Key knowledge The role of juries, and factors that influence their composition Strengths and weaknesses of the jury system Reforms and alternatives to the jury system

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Civil remedies
Civil remedies

  • Sample question - answers

  • Questions?

  • Textbook, p 362, qu 6

  • Legal Notes, p 135, qu 7

The jury system
The jury system

  • Key knowledge

  • The role of juries, and factors that influence their composition

  • Strengths and weaknesses of the jury system

  • Reforms and alternatives to the jury system

  • What is a Jury?

  • How is a Jury empanelled?

  • What factors affect the composition of the jury?

  • Advantages of Juries - including 'trial by peers', society's values

  • Disadvantages of Juries - including no reason, no understanding of law/precedent

  • Have there been recent changes to the Jury System?

  • What are possible changes to the Jury System?

The jury system1
The jury system

  • Key skills

  • Critically evaluate the effectiveness of juries

  • Suggest and discuss reforms and alternatives to the adversary system and the jury system

Why juries are important
Why juries are important

  • The nature of the jury as a body of ordinary citizens called from the community to try the particular case offers some assurance that the community as a whole will be more likely to accept a jury's verdict than it would be to accept the judgment of a judge or magistrate who might be, or be portrayed as being, over-responsive to authority or remote from the affairs and concerns of ordinary people. The random selection of a jury panel, the empanelment of a jury to try the particular case, the public anonymity of individual jurors, the ordinary confidentiality of the jury's deliberative processes, the jury's isolation ... from external influences and the insistence upon its function of determining the particular charge according to the evidence combine ... to offer some assurance that the accused will not be judged by reference to sensational or self-righteous pre-trial publicity or the passions of the mob. (Deane J, Kingswell 1985)

The role of juries
The role of juries

  • Decide on the facts of the case i.e. what they think actually happened based on the evidence they’ve heard

  • Jurors must:

    • Be fair and impartial

    • Set aside their prejudices/biases

    • Listen to the facts and evidence presented and understand them

    • Understand points of law that are explained by the judge

    • Deliver a verdict (guilty/not guilty in a criminal trial; liable/not liable in a civil trial) and decide on compensation (damages) in civil trials (except for defamation cases)

  • Aim is for a unanimous verdict but a majority verdict (11/12 or 5/6) may be accepted in some circumstances. What are they? (see p 137 Legal Notes)

Selection and composition of juries
Selection and composition of juries

  • Randomly selected from the electoral roll (only those enrolled to vote can be chosen – excludes those under 18 and anyone who is not an Australian citizen

  • Notified of selection – sent questionnaire to determine eligibility

  • From this, you will be classified in one of the following ways:

    • Eligible

    • Ineligible – people too involved in the legal system or those unable to perform the duties due to physical or mental issues or language difficulties

    • Disqualified – people unsuitable for jury duty because of something they’ve done

Selection and composition
Selection and composition

  • Even if you’re eligible, you can ask to be excused:

    • For good reason e.g. illness, care of children or sick person, hardship (e.g. own business)

    • Permanently excused e.g. illness, disability, age

  • Your request to be excused may not be granted, in which case you are a potential juror.

  • If it is granted, your jury service may be deferred to a later date


  • Once your eligibility has been confirmed, you will be sent a summons at least 10 days before you need to attend court

  • It’s an offence not to attend a jury duty summons, and if empanelled onto a jury, it is also an offence not to attend (Fine of 30 penalty units – 1 penalty unit is equal to around $140 – or 3 months imprisonment)

  • Become part of the jury pool from which people which be drawn to sit on cases

  • Paid $39 per day for the first six days, $78 for every day after that. Your employer makes up the difference between this and your regular income


  • Process for selection of a jury for a particular case

  • (About 12% of people called up for jury duty actually end up on a jury)

  • Parties have some say in who sits on the jury in their case – aim to avoid any parties who may be biased e.g a bank employee in a bank robbery case

  • Criminal cases: six peremptory challenges (for no reason), unlimited for cause challenges – must have a valid reason

  • Civil cases: can cross three names off the list of jurors – no reason needs to be given, unlimited for cause challenges – must have a valid reason

Advantages of jury system
Advantages of jury system

  • Decisions reflect views of the community/trial by one’s peers (more representative than a single judge)

  • Independent and impartial deciders of fact

  • Community participation in legal system (educative role)

  • Ensures legal system remains accessible/intelligible

  • Shares the decision making (i.e. decision not just made by judges; removes possibility of individual bias)

  • Guards against misuse of power

  • Jurors take role seriously, therefore more likely to get it right

  • Don’t have to give reasons therefore can bring conscience to bear on decisions

Disadvantages of jury system
Disadvantages of jury system

  • Not truly representative of a cross-section of the community

  • May be difficult to set aside preconceptions or bias (e.g. about a particular race)

  • Potential for influence by media, and by persuasive lawyers (who may play to emotions of jurors)

  • Judges are better able to make decisions – legal training

  • Juries don’t have to give reasons – can’t check their understanding of facts and/or law

  • Time-consuming (time taken for empanelling, juries sent out while admissibility of evidence is debated etc.) and subsequent increase in costs

More disadvantages
More disadvantages

  • Inconsistent assessment of damages

  • High acquittal rates

  • Evidence may be complex and technical

  • Difficulty of achieving a unanimous verdict

Questions to consider
Questions to consider

  • The majority of criminal cases are decided by a magistrate. Is this fair?

  • Are community values really reflected in the decisions of a jury? How do you know?

  • Is it fair that a person can be found guilty for some offences based on a majority verdict (rather than unanimous)?

  • How do juries contribute (or not) to the idea of our legal system being accessible and timely?

  • The Snowtown murder case ended in a hung jury. What are some of the factors that might have contributed to this?

Exam questions
Exam questions

  • A former defendant stated: ‘Two features of the jury system are being judged by your peers, and having a cross-section of the community on the panel.’ Critically evaluate these two features of the jury system. (6 marks)

  • How would you answer this?

    • Strengths and weaknesses of being judged by your peers

    • Strengths and weaknesses of having a cross-section of the community

    • Overall conclusion

Exam questions1
Exam questions

  • In a recent submission to the Victorian Law Reform Commission (VLRC), an individual stated that ‘the jury system is outdated and should be abolished’. Discuss the extent to which you agree or disagree with this statement. In your answer describe the role of the VLRC. (10 marks)

  • How would you answer this?

    • Strengths and weaknesses of the jury system AND relate this back to the question i.e. to what extent do you agree with the statement

    • Discuss the extent – 7-8 marks

    • Describe the VLRC – 2-3 marks